Building a Dream
Diana Uwera, a single mother of two began her journey to Phoenix in 2002, when she fled the Democratic Republic of Congo during the Second Congo War which had raged since 1998. It is the deadliest war since World War II, losing millions of people to starvation and disease. These events sparked a humanitarian crisis which sent many people fleeing the country for safety. Diana’s family was caught up in this violence and experienced much hardship.
When she left the DRC, Diana passed through several countries before arriving in Ethiopia where she found work as a preschool teacher in 2003 and had two children. In 2009, she and her children were finally resettled in Phoenix through the IRC where she hoped to continue pursuing her passion for teaching. She soon began the job search through the help of the IRC’s employment team and was hired as an Assistant Teacher at a local Montessori school.
Diana joined the IRC’s Child Care Microenterprise Development Program in 2012. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to continue teaching while also caring for her own children: two boys, ages 8 and 2. “I always had a plan to work on my own”, she says. The Childcare Program gives refugee women the ability take care of their own children while also earning a supplemental income by caretaking for others’ children in their home. They complete the steps necessary to become a licensed childcare provider and receive additional business training from the IRC, who funds all licensing requirements. These requirements typically include CPR training, TB tests, and liability insurance.
Diana became a licensed childcare provider and now runs a successful at-home childcare business where she takes care of between four and eleven children at any given time. She explains that there is a substantial need for licensed childcare providers in her community and that she is delighted to provide her culturally sensitive services. Diana takes care of children from all cultures and backgrounds, including both refugee and American-born children. Because of her previous teaching experience, Diana emphasizes the importance of creating a learning environment for the children in her care.
Prior to opening her business Diana received social service assistance and expended her 24 month maximum time on such services. She no longer needed social service support the month she started her business. So far the Child Care Microenterprise Program has helped 7 refugees become certified at home childcare providers and 73 refugees are enrolled and on their way.
Diana says that many children go to day care but do not learn anything while they are there. In her opinion, these places “leave kids behind” by the time they enter preschool or kindergarten. To ensure that children are always learning something new, Diana plays educational games with them. In one instance, she sits down at a table and pulls out a puzzle for the younger children. She quizzes them over where each shape belongs and asks them to tell her which color each shape is.
Diana has big dreams for the future. She is currently in school studying child day care management, and hopes to eventually open a day care center. She also recently acquired a van for her childcare business through the IRC’s IDA program and will be graduating next year from the same program to purchase her own home.
To learn more about the Child Care Microenterprise Development Program, contact the Program Coordinator Zizina Hakizimana at email@example.com or (602) 433-2440, ext. 169
Story by Jordan Nikoloff, Communications Intern
Photos by Jordan Nikoloff